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I Am Navy Medicine – and Chief Hospital Corpsman Don P. Wilwayco – of NMRTC Bremerton

29 September 2023

From Douglas Stutz

With the announcement that four Sailors assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness Training Command Bremerton were selected for advancement to the rank of chief petty officer for Fiscal Year 2024, we asked each to reflect on their designation.For Chief Hospital Corpsman Don P. Wilwayco, receiving the news he had been chosen proved to be a flabbergasted
With the announcement that four Sailors assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness Training Command Bremerton were selected for advancement to the rank of chief petty officer for Fiscal Year 2024, we asked each to reflect on their designation.

For Chief Hospital Corpsman Don P. Wilwayco, receiving the news he had been chosen proved to be a flabbergasted moment.

Which he immediately shared with his wife.

“I immediately called my wife Sooyun,” related Wilwayco. “It felt so surreal that she had to remind me of what I said to her in our phone conversation, because I really could not believe the news that I got selected.”

There were personal emotions and professional sentiments to sift through as his selection became a reality.

“I had flashbacks of the people, moments, and experiences that got me here. I did not accomplish this alone. I thank God, family, Sailors, mentors, as well as those who believed in me during those times that I don’t even believe myself. I did not get here alone. I have multiple mentors and leaders who have positively influenced my life and I want to be that person to the Sailors that I lead,” said Wilwayco.

Wilwayco began his career in Navy Medicine approximately 11 and a half years ago. He’s originally from Manila, Philippines, graduated from University of Santo Tomas Manila [high school] in 2007, but calls San Diego, California home.

His journey started March 28, 2012, after deciding to become a hospital corpsman. He attended the Navy’s Hospital Corpsman “A” School at Navy Medicine Training Support Center, Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston and pursued the Navy enlisted classification of becoming a surgical technologist.

Wilwayco considers his interest in becoming part of Navy Medicine an extension of his upbringing as well as a practical decision.

“I was already in my third year of college in the Philippines pursuing Nutrition and Dietetics when I immigrated to the United States in October of 2010,” Wilwayco noted. “Since I did not finish my college degree – although he is working on his Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from National University - it was very difficult to find a job in the medical field. The best way to show gratitude to the country who accepted me was to join the military and serve.”

It is very common in Filipino families to aspire that their child become a nurse,” continued Wilwayco. “I initially wanted to be a Marine, but USMC recruiters told me that they do not have occupations specifically geared towards medicine. However, they mentioned that the Navy works hand-in-hand with the Marine Corps, so I decided to join as hospital corpsman.”

True to that initial description of the support which hospital corpsman provide as a ready medical force to help ensure the Marines are a medically ready force, Wilwayco has achieved enlisted Fleet Marine Force warfare qualifications based upon successfully attaining challenging physical fitness, medical care knowledge and treatment skill when assigned under the command of 3rd Marine Logistics Group, Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan. That time also further whet his appreciation for the responsibilities of being a Navy chief.

“When I was stationed in 3rd Medical Battalion, being the S-3 Operations Future Operations chief was one of the most rewarding positions that I was able to do. I really enjoyed planning and coordinating the efforts to ensure that Marines have the capabilities and medical assets they need for deployment,” said Wilwayco adding that his time at NMRTC Bremerton has had him fill leading petty officer roles in Directorate for Surgical Services and Directorate for Administration.

“Surgical Services was the dream position for a surgical technologist like me,” Wilwayco said. “I really liked seeing the growth of Sailors professionally as they perfect their craft in delivering surgical and specialty services to our beneficiaries in the Pacific Northwest.”

Those days of being the LPO are gone for Wilwayco and the three others. They will also experience a name change like no other. Hence forth he will forever be referred to as, ‘chief.’ With that new forename comes much heightened expectations, both internally as well as externally.

“A Chief to me is someone who advocates for his Sailors. A chief is the person that they can lean on, will listen to their concerns and rely on to accomplish the mission. It’s about helping Sailors to reach their full potential both personally and professionally,” related Wilwayco, acknowledging that being selected was the easy part.

The hard part follows. One he has fully embraced.

“The main challenge of being selected is the weight of the anchors. There is so much to learn as well as various behaviors and habits that either need to be changed or refined. Because at the end of the day, Sailors will be depending on me to guide them with their decisions,” explained Wilwayco.

When asked to sum up his experience with Navy Medicine, Wilwayco replied, “I thank everyone for helping me grow as a person, as a leader, and help develop my craft and skill sets to help other people succeed. The best part of my career are seeing others succeed and also knowing that we are making an positive impact in each other’s lives.”

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